“I’d rather be in the pub,” is the somewhat plaintive cry of Oliver Reed on the last day of his life, recounting a career of boozing, bust-ups and evil spirits in Oliver Reed: Wild Thing.
This man, more at ease in the company of artisans of normal people (despite a fondness for Keith Moon “The Loon”), chucked away a film career by insulting various Hollywood types and preferring to spend his time in beloved British pubs than heading across the Pond.
While wives and careers leave him behind, Reed is happy enough to meander through life in search of something to liven up his days and while away his nights. In a neat device, many of Reed’s lines from Gladiator, filmed during his last days on Malta, seem to reflect his life. But was Reed trapped by the character he constructed for himself, or was it a true portrait of the man?
Refreshingly, Wild Thing doesn’t really dwell on the darkness or attempt some sort of critical assessment. While it constitutes an amiable, if untaxing, trip through Olly’s life it does boast a commanding central performance from Rob Crouch – a lengthy monologue at that – that brings the old rogue back to life for 70 thrilling minutes.
Despite Reed’s coarseness, proclivity to throw fists, chauvinism and sheer unpredictability, Wild Thing glories in his atavism, energy and magnetism – and makes a persuading case for Reed constituting our last, great hellraiser.